Friday, April 27, 2012

Family-run Bolingbrook florist battles big-box foes.

Through the artistry of her floral arrangements, Karen Koven has been spreading beauty to clients in Bolingbrook and beyond for nearly 20 years.
Koven began training with area florists. After honing her skills for six years, her husband Ron encouraged to open her own shop to “offer her own flair on arrangements.”

In September 1993, Koven opened Karen’s Floral Expressions, now perched at 253 S. Weber Road, Bolingbrook. The business has been family-owned and operated ever since.

“I always had a kind of art background,” Koven said. “I just always had a desire for art. One day I got the idea to take a floral design class, and I loved it so much. My husband finally talked me into opening my own shop.”
Over the last 19 years, Koven has seen a lot of changes in both the floral industry and in the business community in Bolingbrook.
“The city has grown dramatically and the business center has shifted several times,” she said.

The shifting business district boundaries prompted Koven to move her shop five years ago to its present location on Weber Road. The new location is more centrally located and doubled her retail space, she said.
The rise of the Internet and the increase of third-party telephone companies, such as 1-800-Flowers and, changed the scope of business  — and not always for the better, Koven said.

Two years ago, Koven testified before a legislative committee in Springfield against the practice of out-of-state companies purchasing local telephone numbers to appear as if they were a local florist.
Koven explained that the practice — which is still in existence — has customers paying higher costs than if they ordered directly from a local florist. Once accepting the order, she said third-party companies place the order with Koven and other local florists.

“They were trying to make it look like they were us, but were charging customers a much higher price than they would have paid if they’d just gone to the brick-and-mortar florists,” Koven said. “They will charge you $75 for an order, then come to us to fill a $70 order.
“Finally, a group of us florists got together because we were so disgusted with it.”

Working with Florists for Change, Koven seeks change in the way local florists work with wire-ordering companies. The current system favors tele-florist companies and she said customers are not receiving the best value because of the pricing structures set up by those companies.

“We want to protect our customers and make sure they’re getting what they’re paying for,” she said. It’s also important for consumers to keep their money local, she said. “Me, personally, I pay taxes twice, with my home and my business, and we employ people in town who spend their money in town,” she reasoned. “It’s important to know where your money is going.”
Despite the rise of Internet and telephone orders, Koven still prefers to offer personal service to all customers — seen or unseen. “It’s important to get those personal touches. We’ve been able to tailor arrangements for Cubs fans, avid gardeners and people with a variety of interests. We try to capture the customer in our arrangements,” Koven said.

The Internet also can impact customers’ expectations, she explained.
“People look at pictures on the Internet and expect to get exactly what the picture shows. Mother Nature doesn’t make her product look the same every time,” she said. “In many ways, the Internet has taken creativity away.”
Koven treats her business as a family affair, and in many ways it is.
Although Ron Koven doesn’t work with his wife, he spends a lot of time at the shop. Several years ago, he suffered a stroke and ended up going to work daily with his wife during his recovery.
Although he’s recovered now, he still spends much of his free time at the shop.

“I just like hanging around here,” he said.
Ron isn’t the only family member who spends time at the store. Their daughter works part time and she often brings her children with her. Koven set up a space in the rear of the shop just for them that has toys and paper for drawing. Employee Milena Malicbegovic laughed about some of the antics of the youngest Kovens. She said they sometimes run around the shop like “tornadoes.”  “It’s a real family atmosphere here,” she said.

Erica Benson

Owner of Karen's Floral Expressions, Karen Koven, makes a flower arrangement at her family owned business Wednesday April 18, 2012. Karen has had the family flower shop since 1993.


No comments:

Post a Comment